Sarracenia flava L. Varieties
Keywords: field studies: Sarracenia flava, new taxa: Sarracenia
flava var. cuprea, flava var. rubricorpora
Front Cover: S. flava var. rugelii.
Figure 2: S. flava var. rubricorpora
Since writing a brief note in Carnivorous Plant Newsletter a few years
ago (Schnell, 1995) warning about problems applying wrong or inappropriate
names to perceived varieties of Sarracenia flava L. and giving
a few examples, I have been asked to do a more complete treatment of this
problem. At first, the task seemed daunting because of the older literature
involved, the seemingly endless proliferation of "names" applied to Sarracenia
at all levels by the happy British gardeners of the late nineteenth century,
and even what has happened more recently as equally happy carnivorous
plant people working in the field and in horticultural efforts all too
often merrily call whatever they see whatever they want without research
or proper basic documentation. Of course, only a few are guilty of the
latter trespass, but their comments tend to become fixed in place over
time, lately in particular if they appear on the world wide web!
When we speak of variations in S. flava in particular, we mainly
refer to red pigmentation--whether there is any; and if so, how it is
disposed on the pitcher. Are there veins, the famous "purple splotch"
in the throat, any diffuse pigmentation, and how are they interrelated?
To some degree, one can also speak of relative pitcher size, lid size
and expansion of the upper portion of the pitcher, but my studies show
that it all mainly comes down to red pigment, other features being ancillary.
Red pigment in Sarracenia is a very complex subject and cannot
be evaluated for either genetic or taxonomic purposes in simple presence/absence
terms. One must consider several aspects in plants that are a few years
old and produce mature pitchers: 1) Presence or absence of red pigment;
2) Extent or amount of red color present; 3) Pattern of red pigment in
pitchers and other structures; and 4) "Shade" of red pigment present (which
may be noted with the use of extended length standard horticultural color
charts if necessary). Red pigment expression and regulation in Sarracenia
is very likely polygenic.
Very brief mention of a few of the many early writings I reviewed on
Sarracenia seems in order to put the problem in perspective.
Two interesting early papers are by Manda (1892) and Burbidge (1905).
They are fun to read in light of the past and present times, but by themselves
would be terribly confusing and misleading. Manda was a horticulturist
and read his paper before the Royal Horticultural Society in 1892 on the
subject "Insect-eating Plants." When he got to Sarracenia, he listed
twenty-five "names" in italics with comment after most (but not all!)
as whether they were considered a species or hybrid. There is no indication
of what might have been cultivar names and there are no physical descriptions
of characters of the plants other than subjective comments on their attractiveness
and distinctiveness. Some of the hybrid diagnoses are correct, but many
are not. A few S. flava varieties are listed as hybrids, and vice
versa. The plant names have no authorities.
Some seventeen years later, Burbidge did a paper on the "Trumpet-leaved
Pitcher Plants" (1905) and was somewhat more organized with his errors
mixed with correct taxa. He listed Sarracenia spp. insofar as they
were known then, with varieties and some horticulturally interesting hybrids.
But this time the varieties were listed under species and all the claimed
hybrids were together at the end of the paper. There was no organized
list of references, but a paragraph at the end did mention other literature
The emphasis in both instances (and many other papers not mentioned here)
was on horticulture, not a bad thing in itself, but this emphasis crossed
into botanical evaluations as well. If one were interested in a clear
history of these plants and relied on these works only and others like
them, there would be complete confusion.
Just prior to these two articles, Masters wrote in The Gardeners
Chronicle (1881c), providing a much more logical and a clearer listing
of the species as they were known in those days, and listing varieties
along with authorities and some morphologic description to the extent
that some errors could be seen. For example, S. flava var. crispata
is clearly a nice description of what we now know as S. alata,
and Masters did express some doubt about varietal status and wondered
if it might be a distinct species. So, why did not Manda and Burbidge
pick up on this knowledge and quality of presentation with their much
later efforts? We may never know.
Distilled from all this, Macfarlane did the Sarraceniaceae section for
Das Pflanzenreich (1908) and pared the numerous varieties (?), hybrids
(?), etc. of S. flava down to a more acceptable but still not entirely
accurate summation. As was the habit in those days, the descriptive portion
of his monograph, including comments, was written in Latin. For those
who have difficulty with Latin, Macfarlane conveniently provided an English
adaptation in Bailey (1917). All hybrids were relegated to the end of
the monograph. Macfarlane recognized six varieties of S. flava,
four of which (including the type variety--see below), in my opinion stand
today. The other two are likely hybrids.
In more modern literature, the varieties of S. flava are usually
listed according to Macfarlane (e.g. McDaniel 1966, Bell 1949).
In 1978, I published a paper on S. flava variations in eastern
North Carolina which applies to all the eastern or Atlantic coastal plain.
I reduced the seeming spectrum of variation then easily seen in this region
in massive stands to five genetic variants and concluded that all the
others were hybrids of these to varying degree. I did not formally name
these variants at the time since my research into this aspect of the old
literature was incomplete at the time, and I felt there was little interest.
I referred to the variants by distinctive (now well-used) informal designations
in double quotes, such as "typica", "all red", "heavily-veined", etc.
Since then, using similar methodology as in my 1978 study (see original
paper for details), I have come to recognize two additional basic varieties
on the Gulf coast to report here.
In the interest of clarification, I am now prepared to assign appropriate
varietal epithets to these seven true varieties, five of which are older
applicable designations, and two which, although well-known informally,
are herein described and published with varietal epithets for the first
Varietal status, rather than the higher subspecies level, was chosen
for two combined reasons. First, it is my opinion that the variations
are not of sufficient degree to warrant the higher status, particularly
when considered alongside other Sarracenia species infraspecific
classification. Secondly, I tend to follow the taxonomic school of thought
that subspecies designation is generally reserved for variant groups of
a species that are mostly geographically separated (allopatric), and variety
used for those variants which occur in the same area or even within a
Figure 1: A. S. flava var. maxima, B. S. flava
var. atropurpurea, C. S. flava var. flava,
D. S. flava var. ornata, E. S. flava var.
Sarracenia flava Varieties
1)Sarracenia flava var. flava
Prominent deep red to purple pigment deposition in pitcher throat with
variably prominent red venation radiating from this over lid and upper
pitcher tube. Informally, this was previously designated "typica" by me
(1978). Since this is the predominant variety in the type area for the
species, it automatically bears the specific epithet without authority.
Very prominent in the Atlantic coastal plain, currently rare in southeastern
Virginia, and far more common in North Carolina and South Carolina. (Figure
2)Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea (Bull) Bell (1949)
Lid and external pitcher tube a deep red in ideal growing conditions,
pitcher interior pale tan. Informally, I previously listed this as "all
red" (1978) which correlates well with earlier descriptions of var. atropurpurea,
so of course it is retained here. Uncommon, Atlantic coastal plain of
North Carolina and South Carolina, rarer yet in Florida panhandle. (Figure
3)Sarracenia flava var maxima Bull ex Mast. (1881a)
The epithet is unfortunate for this variety since one would a priori
suspect it refers to pitcher size, and has been mistakenly used in
this respect. In fact, the key early descriptive feature of this variety
is that the pitchers are green with no red venation or red coloration
of throat. Note: These plants are not the equivalent of anthocyanin-free
taxa elsewhere in the genus since the bases of pitchers and cladophylls
of var. maxima do have some red pigment. Uncommon throughout the
range, but most easily found in the Atlantic coastal plain of North Carolina
and South Carolina, far less frequent in northwestern Florida. (Figure
4)Sarracenia flava var. ornata Bull ex Mast. (1881b)
Deep red to purple throat pigmentation nearly obliterated by very strong
and heavy red venation throughout pitcher tube and lid. This was informally
previously designated "heavily veined" by me (1978). It is frequent in
the Atlantic North Carolina and South Carolina coastal plain, far less
easily found in northwestern Florida. (Figure 1D)
5)Sarracenia flava var. rugelii (Shuttlew. ex A.DC.)
Top of pitcher more widely expanded and with larger lid than other varieties,
prominent large deep red to purple pigment area in pitcher throat that
is often fractured with smaller satellite areas but with no significant
venation. This variety has erroneously been called var. maxima by
some. Common and predominant variety in southern Georgia and northwestern
Florida. (see Front Cover)
6) Sarracenia flava L. var. cuprea Schnell,
Operculo folii urceolati externo cupreo vel ferrugineo atque parte superiore
1/4 tubi urceolati externi prominente cuprea vel ferruginea distinguenda.
External lid of the pitcher and sometimes upper 1/4 part of the external
tube prominently copper-colored or rust-colored.
TYPE LOCALITY. United States. North Carolina. Brunswick County, off State
Rt. 211: wet savanna. Herbarium material collected 1 July 1998 from cultivated
plants, D.E. Schnell s.n. (HOLOTYPUS: US).
ETYMOLOGY. Epithet cuprea refers to "copper color."
RANGE. Southeastern coastal plain, most prominent in North Carolina and
South Carolina, rare in northwestern Florida.
HABITAT. Open or moderately shaded pine savannas, drainage ditches, seep
bogs and along shallow, meandering streams.
This is the variety formerly referred to informally as "copper hooded"
or "copper lid" (Schnell 1978). (Figure 1E)
7) Sarracenia flava L. var. rubricorpora
Schnell , var. nov.
Folio urceolato extus atrorubro, intus superne flavido-bubalino, operculo
flavo-viridi et venationem prominente rubram habente distinguenda.
Pitcher tube externally dark red, internally yellowish-buff, the lid
yellow-green and having prominent red venation.
TYPE LOCALITY. United States, Florida. Liberty County, herbarium material
collected 1 July 1998 from cultivated plants. D.E. Schnell, s.n.
ETYMOLOGY. "rubri-" being red, "-corpora" referring to
body of pitcher tube.
RANGE. Restricted to northwestern Florida.
HABITAT. Open or moderately shaded pine savannas, ditches and seep bogs.
This strikingly beautiful variety is restricted to the Florida panhandle
Gulf coast and has been widely known and informally referred to for years
but not previously formally described. It is not common in the global
sense, but often occurs in rather prominent stands when found where it
affords a spectacular view. Being a Gulf coast plant, it was not in my
1978 paper. (Figure 2)
I recognize seven varieties of S. flava worthy of naming, the
remaining color and vein presentations of a seeming spectrum in some locations
being varietal hybrids or backcrosses, or ecophenes. Five of theseæ
predominantly in the Atlantic coastal plainæ were studied and presented
in my 1978 paper with informal designations applied until further "library
research" could match older formal varietal designations to some of these.
One is given the "default" varietal designation var. flava, three
are matched with previous formal descriptions and varietal names, and
one new formal varietal description herein published. On the Gulf coast,
not covered in my 1978 paper, two unique genetic varieties are discerned,
one matching a previously published varietal epithet, and the second being
formally described herein. All seven of these varieties can now be referred
to by formal, accurate varietal names, and there should no longer be confusion
about what epithet applies to what variant.
Bell, C.R. 1949, A Cytotaxonomic Study of the Sarraceniaceae of North
America, J. Elisha Mitch. Sci. Soc., 65: 137-166 plus 14 plates.
Burbidge, F.W. 1905, The Trumpet-Leaved Pitcher Plants, Flora and Sylva,
Macfarlane, J.M. 1908, Sarraceniaceae. In Engler, Das Pflanzenreich.
Macfarlane, J.M. 1917, Sarracenia. In Bailey, Standard Cyclopedia
of Horticulture, Macmillan, New York. Vol. VI, pp. 3078-3081.
Manda, A.J. 1892, Insect-Eating Plants, J. Roy. Hort. Soc., 15: 135-143.
Masters, M.T. 1881a, The Gardeners Chronicle, 2. ser. 15: 817.
Masters, M.T. 1881b, The Gardeners Chronicle, 2. ser. 15: 628.
Masters, M.T. 1881c, Sarracenias, The Gardeners Chronicle, 2. ser.
16: 11-12, 40-41.
McDaniel, S. 1966, A Taxonomic Revision of Sarracenia (Sarraceniaceae),
University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, No. 67-345, pp. 1-128.
Schnell, D.E. 1978, Sarracenia flava L.: Infraspecific Variation
in Eastern North Carolina, Castanea, 43: 1-20.
Schnell, D.E. 1995, Sarracenia flava Varieties: Do We Know What
We Are Talking About? Carniv. Pl. Newslett., 24: 48-49.